Do you have fond memories of nature growing up?

Dean Blackwood

02 February 2016

Dean Blackwood shares childhood memories of the river he's known all his life - and explains why it needs better protection

The River Faughan in County Londonderry is a special place for nature, where otters, salmon and kingfishers live. It has a special place in Dean Blackwood’s heart too. 

Dean Blackwood on the River Faughan, Northern Ireland
Dean Blackwood fishing in the River Faughan
My fondest memory of this place is as a child, perhaps five or six years old, sitting in the early morning sun on the banks of the Faughan with my great uncle Albert. While my father stalked fresh run sea trout, Albert would make me a fishing rod from a “sally” (willow) whip and share with me his breakfast of hot tea and lemon curd sandwiches.

Dean Blackwood

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As a Special Area of Conservation, the River Faughan and its tributaries should be protected by European laws. But nearby, one of the largest illegal landfills in Europe has been allowed to operate.

The landfill runs alongside the river for over a kilometre. Planners have repeatedly failed to act against unauthorised quarries – which have been dug to bury a million tonnes of rubbish – despite concerns raised about the impact on the environment.

Dean says: “Incredibly, the main water supply for the nearby city of Derry is pumped from a location a short distance downstream of this super dump.”

Grey heron

The river is special to Dean not only because of his childhood memories – but because of the wildlife it is home to, including protected species.

“My favourites are brown trout, Atlantic salmon, otter, kingfisher, grey heron and the elusive pygmy shrew, amongst so many others."

Standing knee deep in the fast flowing streams in the black of a warm July night, as the sea trout run the river – it’s a great experience.

Dean Blackwood

Dean wants to see better enforcement of nature laws, to safeguard the River Faughan he knows and loves.

European otter, Lutra Lutra
Otter by Chris Gomersall/2020VISION
The river needs protecting because it is home to some very special wildlife – but also, people have a deep attachment and affection for this place. Those who live, fish, paddle, walk, or just sit in its wondrous presence.

Dean Blackwood


Last year over 500,000 people asked the EU not to weaken important laws that protect nature.  This amazing response is having an impact.

But EU and UK politicians are still discussing whether to change these crucial laws.  We say they must keep them strong and enforce them better.  

To make sure our politicians make the right decisions, we need to keep telling them just how important nature is to us.

Dean Blackwood

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Dean Blackwood on the River Faughan, Northern Ireland